Whether it’s diving for a loose ball, guarding his opponents’ best offensive player on the floor or making clutch three-pointers, Los Angeles Lakers swingman Wesley Matthews is ready for whatever his team throws at him on game day.
This Sunday against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of opening round of the NBA Playoffs, that could mean Matthews getting his first start and trying to lock down Devin Booker.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is listed as questionable with a bruised left knee. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said he’s hopeful Caldwell-Pope can play. But if he can’t go, Matthews would be the logical choice to get his first start of the series.
“My job is to stay ready for whatever the task at hand is called for,” Matthews said. “So, I’m focused on what it is I need to do, get my body right, my mind right. Get shots up. Treatment and lift --all that stuff. And everybody’s doing that same thing.
“That’s just kind of what this whole season has kind of oddly prepared us for, is the unknown. Hopefully, KCP is back and at 100 percent because obviously we’re a stronger team if we have everyone healthy. But as far as whatever it means for me, I’ll be ready for whatever.”
Matthews started 10 games during the regular season, averaging 6.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in 26 minutes per game. The Lakers were 4-6 in games Matthews started.
Matthews had his best game of the series in a Game 3 win over the Suns on Thursday, hitting back-to-back three-pointers to spark a run early in the fourth quarter and finishing with eight points
“Wes has played really well,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “He really provides that toughness, edginess and chippy nature on the defensive end. You need that when you have elite playmakers like we’re going against in Chris Paul and Booker, and even the way Cameron Payne is playing. So you definitely need that. He’s just another weapon for us to throw out there, and he helps solidify us on the defensive end.”
Added Matthews: “Any time you contribute on the offensive end, especially when we’re struggling from the three-point line, it feels good,” Matthews said. “But just to be in that atmosphere, playing in the playoffs and competing with big aspirations and big goals, that’s why we’re here. That’s why we play and that’s why we do this. Making shots is a must and felt good to do so. But I’m not going to throw a parade to celebrate, because my mentality is those are supposed to go in.”
If he does start, Matthews will have his hands full slowing down Booker, Phoenix’s leading scorer in the series, averaging 28 points a contest.
“You can tell he wants this,” Matthews said about Booker. “He’s been the face of the Phoenix Suns since he got into the league. It’s his first time in the playoffs. He’s had some good scoring games, obviously winning Game 1. So, he’s hungry. But it’s obviously our job to make sure we take care of home.”